On June 21 the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources released its over-winter wolf population estimate. Their population range was a very elastic low of 944 to a high of 1,377 wolves, amounting to little more than guesswork. What this population estimate ignores is the winter death toll: at least 223 wolves killed in modern-day assault on wolves by hound hunters and trappers.
During the June meeting of its so-called “Wolf Harvest Committee,” the DNR continued to play fast and loose with its estimate of wolf populations, dismissing concerns about rampant poaching, killing of wolves by federal wildlife control agents, or other human-caused mortality. Its staff did not factor in the number of pregnant females killed – a compounding effect of their winter “harvest.”
While the DNR wants you to just trust its decision-makers and their pseudoscience, a recent peer-reviewed study of the current Wisconsin wolf population gives us a far more accurate picture than these state officials and political operators do.
In July, University of Wisconsin scientist Adrian Treves and two colleagues concluded in their new study that the population of gray wolves in Wisconsin is significantly lower than estimated by the DNR. While the DNR made claims about how the February trophy killing season would not cause much of a change in the overall wolf population numbers, mass slaughter during the middle of the breeding season would indeed have a significant impact on the population. This study shows that the population of gray wolves in Wisconsin in April likely falls between 695-751 rather than the far fluffier projections presented by the Wisconsin DNR
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No other “big game” species is regarded with such disdain and callous treatment as wolves. It is clear that illegal killing, government-implemented revenge killings for alleged livestock predations, and traffic fatalities added significantly to the already massive overkill that occurred in February. Despite this the Wisconsin DNR wants to present a rosy picture that will justify a second trophy killing slaughter this year. This cannot be allowed to go forward.
If the threat of more permissive and reckless hunting programs in the fall isn’t bad enough, we are now in the midst of the bear hound “training” season in Wisconsin. The very same hounds that were used to chase, fight, and help kill wolves in February are now being set loose by the thousands in our state and national forests in Wisconsin.
We know that a significant number of hounds are killed each year in these state-sanctioned dog fights, but what isn’t accounted for are the wolves or their pups that end up being killed by these packs of marauding hounds. These wolf deaths are likely not known and certainly are not reported by the legal dog fighters when they occur.
It has been shown that the majority of Wisconsin citizens support the gray wolf along with maintaining a stable and healthy population. Despite all of their fluffy rhetoric and rosy projections, it seems that the Wisconsin DNR does not share those aspirations. While Minnesota and Michigan have already announced that they will forbid any hunting or trapping this year, Wisconsin continues to run headlong in the direction of mass killing of animals that were improperly removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.
The state is an outlier among Midwest states and its remorseless treatment of wolves is a disgrace.
Paul Collins is Wisconsin State Director of Animal Wellness Action